Integral Design Process of CLT Structures and Robotic Fabrication

An integral workflow for the preliminary structural design of CLT connection panels with the use of customized robotic fabrication

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Timber and complex designs are making a move in the building industry, as the building industry is on the brink of a significant change toward a 100% customized, more sustainable architecture. Robotic fabrication and Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) can play an important role in this change, but there is a lot of uncertainty and ignorance about the design process of robotically fabricated CLT elements. This uncertainty is primarily caused by the application of linear workflows instead of integral ones. Within the fields of robotic fabrication and CLT, the research narrows down to the robotic milling process of CLT connection panels. Therefore, this research intends to answer the following question by means of four different parts: What does an integral workflow for robotically fabricated customized CLT connection panels look like, that promote exploration of the structural performance of CLT structures in the preliminary design phase? Part I Literature Study Part II Pilot Study Part III Integral Workflow Development Part IV Discussions The Literature Study focusses on two fields, namely the field of CLT and the field of robotic fabrication. In the final chapter of this part, the mutual affordances and constraints of these fields are discussed as these significantly influence the design space of the integral workflow. The second part concerns the production of a small mock-up to explore the process of robotic fabrication. The literature and pilot study together serve as input for the development of the integral workflow in the third part of the research. This workflow is developed in the parametric environment of Grasshopper and is divided in three modules: Global Structure, Joint Design, Robotic Fabrication. For the Joint Design, focus is laid on CLT connection panels of which the principle is derived from a reference project in Alblasserdam (NL). The main conclusions on the research question consist of the relationships and (in)dependencies between the different modules. Another important conclusion is that one cannot apply CLT in the outdoor environment without applying shedding to ensure complete moisture control. To increase the integrality of the workflow as developed in this research, more feedback loops across the three modules should be integrated. For instance, the affordances and constraints of the robotic fabrication process should be integrated within the relationships between the three modules. Hence, if doing so, this information was available in an early stage of the design process and would decrease the uncertainty of it. This implementation could be investigated by producing a mock-up study along the integral workflow.